How A College Student Invented A Bathroom Beer Shelf And Now His Company Makes $2 Million A Year

Like many of us, Matt Williams got his big idea of success while he was drinking in a bar one night. The big difference is that Matt Williams was smart enough to write it down and turned his drunken idea into a company that now makes $2 million a year. The year was 2008, Williams was a college student at Villanova at the time. While at a bar, he noticed a major problem with holding a beer when you go to use the lavatory — where do you put your beer?

Williams realized if you’re in a crowded bar and want to use the bathroom you have to take your beer with you into the john. Then you have the struggle of trying to hold your beer, plus unbutton and unzip your pants, and take a whiz — all without spilling the precious contents in your cup. That’s when the idea for a bathroom beer shelf popped into Williams’ head.

“I put my beer down on the urinal, like I always do, and water from the flush valve dripped in,” Williams told CNBC. “I was kind of grossed out, but also thinking about drinking it.” That’s nasty. Williams noticed that every other guy in the bathroom also attempted to balance a beer on the urinal, on the floor, in their shirt pocket or holding it between his teeth. The wise Williams walked back to his seat at the bar, wrote down his genius idea down on a napkin, and immediately left. “I was like, ‘I can’t get too drunk here tonight. I need to remember this idea.'” The idea for the LavCup was born.

Williams not only wanted to make a shelf, but wanted to put advertising on the shelf to make it profitable for the bar or restaurant to put these beer shelves in their bathrooms. It took months to work out how to make a sturdy, non-evasive shelf with advertising on it. He was so sold on the idea that he maxed out his credit cards, borrowed from his dad and two investors. He had $65,000 to start his LavCup dream.

The LavCup is a small shelf with a non-stick rubber mat. Most importantly, it features antimicrobial silver ion built in because a bathroom isn’t exactly the most sanitary of places. There’s a locked slot slide advertising sheets in and out so it’s easy to replace with new ads. Williams gave the LavCup a punny motto: “Because you can’t hold it.”

CNBC details Williams’ first 2013 encounter with a possible big-time client — Peter McLoughlin, president of the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks.

“He was coming down the escalator, and I said, ‘Peter! Peter! I have to show you something on my iPad. You’re going to like it!'” Williams, now 32, recalls. “I’m not going to say exactly what he said to me, but he’s like, ‘I’m in a rush. I have to get on a plane.'” Williams persisted. “I was like, ‘Peter, please, like 30 seconds. I need 30 seconds of your time!’ I just showed him my iPad. I said, ‘This is what I invented.'” McLoughlin was no longer angry. “He’s like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is brilliant.'” Within 10 weeks, LavCup had its first big order, 1,200 units for CenturyLink Field, where the Seahawks play. Williams called it “the beginning of the snowball.”

Now LavCup has over 21,000 units installed in 26 venues including FedEx Field where the Washington Redskins play and have shelves in stadiums of every major sports league. LavCup has yet another 35 venues pending. LavCup reports their 2017 revenues hit $2 million and have raised more than $600,000 from 10 investors. LavCup doesn’t actually charge venues for the beer shelves, instead, they sell the advertising on the shelves and then split the revenue with the venue. LavCup hopes to target movie theaters and cruise ships next. “I took pictures sometimes of my bank account in the past where I remember $7.21,” Williams says. “I’ll never forget that number.”